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Review: Hope and Other Luxuries by Clare B Dunkle

About the Book

Clare Dunkle seemed to have an ideal life—two beautiful, high-achieving teenage daughters, a loving husband, and a satisfying and successful career as a children's book novelist. But it's when you let down your guard that the ax falls. Just after one daughter successfully conquered her depression, another daughter developed a life-threatening eating disorder. Co-published with Elena Vanishing, the memoir of her daughter, this is the story—told in brave, beautifully written, and unflinchingly honest prose—of one family's fight against a deadly disease, from an often ignored but important perspective: the mother of the anorexic


Hope and Other Luxuries, by Clare B Dunkle, is an incredibly honest, intimate look into the experiences of a mother trying to cope with and help overcome her youngest daughter's struggle with Anorexia. This book is far denser than the companion piece written by her daughter from her own perspective, which gives the reader an exceptionally deep look into all of the added troubles forced into an already traumatic situation.

As I have read the companion memoir, I can say that these two books accomplish a similar things in very different ways. Elena Vanishing gives the more intimate view into Elena's battle with anorexia, adeptly using the troubling, violent inner voice of someone who's trying to cope with trauma by route of eating disorder. 

Hope, on the other hand, gives us an entirely different view into the pain felt by a mother, who feels such an acute agony at watching her daughter self-sabotage in such a painful way as anorexia. This book is deeply honest and difficult to read at moments, but at the same time, is a page turner.

This book also gives the reader another look into the added stresses caused by the United State's health care system and how one diagnosis can alter whether or not a patient receives the treatment they need. This added look on such a pertinent social issue in the US's society definitely sets this memoir apart from Elena Vanishing.

I will admit, though, that I found Elena Vanishing's less chronologically forward reveal of information to be much more interesting and therefore the more interesting book of the two. There was a certain element of pain hidden behind the fact that the Elena in the book denied so much. Hope, on the other hand, was very straight forward in knowledge and reveals, which didn't do so much for me. 

All in all, I think Hope and Other Luxuries is an excellent book. It gives the reader a unique look into a bystander (a mother no less) of the pain and desperation involved with eating disorders. I recommend it, if memoirs involving an honest struggle are of any interest to you.

Reviewed by Amy Richardson

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